- Mental Health
Are You a Good Parent?
Parents by Accident
Let us first mention a sample of a couple that should by all means practice birth control due to their emotional immaturity which disqualifies them from being good parents. While conceiving is surely more fun than the prospects of parenting to such couples, that's how far their readiness for parenthood may go.
Those first time mothers of that kind will find the most support in their eager mothers overjoyed for getting a grandchild. You may see them sometimes in a park, with grandma proudly pushing the stroller, and young mother walking on the side with that absent look on her face as if saying how she would rather be somewhere else and doing something else.
As for the father of that caught-by-surprise duo, he'll keep that clueless expression that started with the moment he heard the disturbing news about the pregnancy; an expression that won't come off his face until the kid is old enough to have a beer with him.
But he may still be heard saying his favorite joke about Mother's Day. "Hey, who knows when is Mother's Day?" - he would ask his friends that are already tired of the joke. So when they mumble something like: "I don't know" - he proudly says: "Nine months after Father's Day". Well, his fatherhood has been a joke from the day-one, and this joke is merely reminding him how at least one part of it is good.
I wanted to mention such "parents" before getting to a more serious talk about what makes a good parenting good. Some folks simply shouldn't take any chances with accidental pregnancy, because they are not cut to be parents. The last thing they should do in their self-centered attitude is to have a baby counting on their parents to take care of her.
As in Marriage - so in Parenting
Good parenting starts long before baby has been conceived, and it's potential is in the kind of marriage the parents are nurturing. It is a capital mistake to think that a marriage, which has been constantly on rocks, may improve by an addition of a baby. While it does happen once in a while, almost as a rule children only bring to a next level the discord that existed before.
At its best in such cases, a child may prevent or at least postpone that ultimate resolve of a separation. Although, these days with the incidence of divorces being so common, a woman should never consider that strategy to keep the man tied in the relationship.
Indeed, those unsure folks might as well keep experimenting some more with dating, until they eventually feel ready for a serious commitment that would include kids.
Potentially the best parents are those personalities who already stepped into marriage with a solid emotional maturity. To them, parenthood is a serious, if not sacred matter, just like their marriage. It is their attitude of readiness and willingness to welcome into their life that tiny and helpless being.
It is their solemn mission to give her all love they are capable of, and to invest their best effort to make her life a beautiful story to be retold at her birthdays. In their hearts, the baby becomes the focal point of their relationship, while every even smallest doubt of before disappears.
Ambient of Love
Basically, a good parenting has two requirements. The first one is not directly about relating to the kid, but about her home ambient. She will be very impressionable - much more than most of the parents are realizing - about the way that those two key persons of her life are treating each other. If baby responds to mother's emotions while still developing in her tummy, then it's so much more believable that she is sensitive about the display of her parents' moods.
She will register in her little heart and mind - and amplify - every expression of love or discord she senses. It is a smart parental policy to invest into her early emotional development, so that later years find her emotionally ready for new demands and roles of life.
You must have seen some of those cases when parents of a confused and rebellious teenager can't figure out "where they went wrong" even though they remember trying so hard to do everything right. Yes, they probably did, but those small and inquisitive eyes must have seen something between them while still in her playpen what stayed glued in her subconscious.
Love and Firm Guidance
The second part is all about how we treat her. Let me give you an example with our two kids. When our son was in his early teens, his good friend told me about my son's mentioning how I would always be his best friend.
That meant a lot to me, because I always tried to be exactly that - my kids' best friend, not merely an authority. When they were old enough to understand, I told them about "authorities", those to obey, and those to ignore, just like I was doing. I also told them that they would have to put up with their mom's and dad's authority and there wouldn't be any negotiations there. They understood, because we had already established a friendly rapport to an extent where they could see how it was all coming from our love and care for them.
As they grew into adulthood, they thanked us for that firm guidance, now understanding how our "discipline" turned into their self-discipline. Just like our authority used to handle their emotional whims, now it became their inner voice maintaining the emotional stability without allowing their nerves to run their lives.
They never witnessed their parents arguing. By the way, they couldn't have, because we never argued, and disagreements never took any raising of voices. Now, before you get a picture of me as a "disciplinarian", we played a lot, laughed a lot, I used to play guitar and we would all sing. At their bed time kids sang in their beds before falling asleep. Well, it's simply that I never mixed love with firm guidance and they could recognize both.
Their appreciation always turns into a poetic expressions in what they write in Christmas- and birthday cards - not without some happy tears and a choked up voices as we are reading them aloud.
No Games of Nerves
There shouldn't be any times of one parent giving-in to persistent begging of the kid, while the other parent didn't give an approval. That would be a mistake, because in a long run that game of "good-parent-bad-parent" is bound to backfire, possibly instilling a manipulative character into her personality.
Playing any games of nerves with kids should be completely out of question. Yelling, dramatizing, accusing, threatening, grounding...doesn't work well, while also giving the relationship with the kid a negative tone. You just can't be a friend of a kid if she doesn't respect you, while trying to trick you, lie to you, and otherwise play on your emotions.
Also, on a bad day, whether it's about job, or just plain PMS-ing with hormones having a party with your nerves, try your best not to take it on kids. Always remember how we tend to treat our kids the same way we treat our inner child, so when we are fighting our inner emotionality, it may project itself in the way we experience less than perfect kids' behavior.
By the same token, you may notice that kids are bound to misbehave more when you are nervous and then it's easy to misbehave towards them.
In order to get back to good terms with our kid, nothing may work better than sitting down with her and opening ourselves up in an honest and friendly conversation. Leaving the role of an authority out of it, we could tell her that grownups make mistakes too, and we would like to know what mistake we made, so that we don't repeat it.
It is not about "lowering ourselves" in front of her, but showing that we are not insisting on playing "perfect" in front of her "imperfections". It's all about friendship. Without friendship and trust we can't have an effective parenting.
Kids are a treasure to have, and they are worth our humble admitting of our own limitations, when interaction with them is calling for it.
Finally, there is something to always keep in mind : even if our very best friends turned their backs on us, we could always count on love from our kids. That is - that same love which we have given them.